In the frame

, Build 166

Steel-framed housing saw a surge in popularity after the Christchurch earthquakes. Gordon Barratt from the National Association of Steel-framed Housing (nash) tells Build about the benefits of steel framing and a joint project with BRANZ.

Q. How does NASH function as an association and support its members?

NASH is an industry association centred on light structural framing systems for residential and similar construction. It represents the interests of suppliers, practitioners and customers. Businesses join NASH to support cooperative programmes for developing the market and industry infrastructure for all light structural steel framing, regardless of the manufacturer.

NASH is active in regulatory processes affecting steel-framed housing, contributing to New Zealand standards and the New Zealand Building Code. We work with government planning agencies and contribute to NASH Australia through representation on their standards committee.

Q. Are you involved in trades training?

Yes. We support building trades training, facilitate technology transfer and product development and provide information to the public. We use our network to keep up and contribute to the growing international steel framing industry, which is one of the fastest-growing construction systems in the world. Although hidden from view, the wall frame determines the quality of a building in both the short and long term.

Q. What are the advantages of a steel-framed home?

Steel doesn’t support mould growth or rot, and it won’t accommodate termites or other insects. Its stability gives it the potential to reduce cracks in claddings and linings. As it does not contain additional preservative chemicals, it won’t give off gases or emit VOCs. Also, steel won’t warp or twist because it doesn’t absorb moisture. It is non-combustible and strong and has been shown to have excellent earthquake resistance.

The roll-forming technology behind steel framing also gives a high degree of dimensional accuracy, enabling consistently straight walls and square corners. Building in this way helps follow-on trades to fit internal linings, kitchens and cupboards. Steel’s stability means there is no contraction or expansion with moisture changes, so frames won’t warp, twist, sag or shrink, eliminating many of the maintenance issues that cause builder call-backs.

Q. What about from the builder’s point of view?

Working with steel framing is very fast and easy, plus steel frames do not absorb moisture so there is no delay waiting for frames to dry. To make it easier for builders, designers and councils, we have videos and publications on the NASH website.

Q. Are there any problems meeting material demands?

There is plenty of capacity in the industry to produce framing to meet a growing market. The cost and speed of setting up new production lines also means that a new plant or production line can be up and running within a day of installation with a manageable investment. NASH has mandatory quality systems for all its manufacturing members that help them maintain a quality and sustainable business.

Q. Medium-density housing is becoming more common. Does steel framing have a role here?

A joint project involving NASH, HERA, Auckland University and BRANZ is nearing completion that will provide design solutions for building steel-frame buildings up to 6 storeys. This is an exciting development and will allow steel-framed buildings to be included in more medium-density housing projects above the current two to three levels steel framing has traditionally been involved in.

This is a growing market for all construction types. Steel is set to increase its profile in this area with cost-effective and efficient systems that better the Building Code requirements.

Q. KiwiBuild is starting. Does steelframing offer any benefits for thismajor initiative?

To meet the government targets forKiwiBuild, buildings need to be builtwith efficient and cost-effective systems.Steel framing lends itself to innovation.Manufacturing systems can produceeffective framing of any shape or sizewith no wastage. Framing coil suppliesare plentiful, and cost fluctuations areminimal. The weight is about one-third ofan equivalent timber frame, making it easyto handle and light to transport while stillhaving very high strength-to-weight ratios.We expect steel framing to play a part inbringing KiwiBuild to fruition.

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